How good were the 2017 NBA MVP candidates?

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How good were the 2017 NBA MVP candidates?

Postby Mandich on Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:22 am


Apart from people being split on the Westbrook/Harden MVP outcome, and the NBA's cringy awards, the media, which then, sadly, also means pretty much all basketball fans are rating candidates and their seasons historically high, and this time they think they've got a point. How good were they really? Can't tell for sure, but can take a closer look.

First, let's determine the players which are consider MVP candidates, with the obvious choices being Westbrook, Harden and Kawhi. LeBron had yet another fantastic regular season, but he had waaaay better. But he will be included because of his Playoff performances, no matter how weak the east was. Kevin Durant will also be included.

DISCLAIMER:nobody cares about per game averages and field goal percentage

1. Russell Westbrook


Well, you don't see that often, a triple-double average. Not that triple-doubles or double-doubles mean as much as some people think, but it's a cool accomplishment. One triple-double is a cool accomplihsment, one season is more, it really is amazing.

As far as him on the offensive end...he probably wasn't one of the favourite teammates to share the floor with.

An Usage rate of 41.7% which is 1st all-time. 2nd is Kobe in his 35ppg "deserving of the MVP" campaign, but even he had an usage rate of 38.74%, Westbrook crapped all over that number this year, and came really close 2 years ago. Everyone knows he is a high usage player, but I don't know if people understand just how high his usage is.

His TS% of .554% ? Not quite MVP level.One can argue He had low level teammates, hence taking bad shots at times, lowering his effectiveness. Easy and lazy argument to make. LeBron had only one year (rookie) with a lower TS%, and he played on some bad teams with a high workload. James Harden is on another level from Westbrook shooting-wise, so are Durant and Curry and Kawhi.. Let's see if there are any other players with a significantly better TS%, that had a high usage rate, scored a lot and played on lesser talented teams:

.580 TS%
30% USG
25 P/36
three-point era
lesser talented teams

Results: I could provide stats, but the point is a different thing: LeBron, Jordan, King, Gervin, EMBIID, although only playing 25.4 MPG.

The thing is, there really aren't many players that did that. LeBron and Jordan are the only players that did it multiple times on bad teams, Gervin and King had arguably the best seasons of their career, and the other players that meet the criteria are all all-time greats that played on playoff teams. Westbrook's usage was over the top, but with it, you can't find many players in the same conditions that will be more effective.

His Ortg of 112 is about what you'd expect for a player in his situation. Actually it is pretty good. McGrady had 116 in 02/03, Wade had 112 in 06/07 and 113 in 09/10, Bryant had 114 in 05/06, Iverson couldn't get over 110 up to 05/06, Melo's Denver max was 110, Pierce had 114 in 04/05, PG never got to 110, Giannis had 116 this year. Most of these players are/were considered the offensive elite at their time. Westbrook hangs well with those guys.

We could look at the VORP and BPM stats, but those are really affected by the team, so it wouldn't be fair to the players that actually play on better teams. ESPN's real +/- even says Westbrook is 8th in the league, comparing to him leading it in BPM. Those stats can be used to measure how valuable a player is for the team in that year in that system.

Contrary to what some people think, Westbrook isn't much of a defender the past few years, despite his size and athleticism. His opponents shot 3.4% better when they played against him.

Westbrook posted a PER of 30.6 this year, which ranks 16th all-time in the NBA. The 30+ PER is reserved for the best of the best. Closest Kobe came was 28.0, Kareem 29.9 in his Milwaukee days, Hakeem 27.3, Iverson 25.9, Bird 27.8, Magic 27.0, Big O 27.6.....just let that sink in.

Curry posted 31.5 in 15/16.

As far as the Playoffs go, and they didn't go long for Westbrook, he slipped a little. He did average 37.4 PPG and a triple-double, but had a 105 Ortg, 47% USG and .511% TS%. Basketball is a team sport, you don't go far by not trusting at least one player.

2. James Harden


0-2 in tight MVP races for Harden, both times his opponent had the better storyline.

Despite him creating more than 50 points per game for him team, ESPN's real +/- has him ranked 13th in the league. And in all seriousness, Harden has improved as a defender, now he is in the low average as his opponents shoot 1.0% better when playing against him.

That aside, people don't understand how special of a player Harden is and what kind of a season he had. What is the number of players other than James Harden that posted 25 PPG, 10 APG, a PER of 25 and a TS% of .600 ? The answer is 0. Magic, Paul and Robertson were all very close, but fell short in the scoring departments.

And really how good of a scorer Harden is. In his time with Houston, he averages .607 in the TS% department, has an average PER of 25.2, his USG% is fantastic for his playing style at 31%, he is scoring 26.3 P/36 and his Ortg is 117. Oh you think it's that rare don't you.

Number of seasons with at least: 25 PPG, 115 Ortg, 25 PER, .600 TS%

Kevin Durant- 6
LeBron James- 5
Michael Jordan- 4
Charles Barkley- 4
Shaquille O'Neal- 2
Karl Malone- 2
Larry Bird- 2
David Robinson- 2
Amar'e Stoudemire- 2
James Harden- 2

You get the point. He is a terrific player, but Westbrook is a special, once in a generation type of player. Just because he is so special doesn't necessarily mean he is better than Harden, though. Harden is also a special breed but there were more examples of players with similar/better type of production.

Harden yet has to join the 30 PER club, playing with Chris Paul is probably the best chance he has. If that team clicks...

Harden shoot 49.3 % of his shots from behind the three point line, and still went to the line over 10 times a game. What a fucking player.

Sadly, his play has dropped in the Playoffs, something we've already seen. PER fell to 23.0, .583 TS%, 111 Ortg, and numbers dropped across the board. The thing with Harden is that I feel he has nowhere to improve. He already plays smart, is efficient, goes to the line, is a good playmaker, the man just needs to start playing some star level defense to take the next step.

3. Kawhi Leonard


How many times have you heard that he is the best two-way player in the NBA? And now tell me, how many times did you heard that this year his opponents shooting dropped a mere 0.8% when matched up with him, compared to -5.6% the year before. The best defender in the league ? The best perimeter defender in the league ?

ESPN's real +/- ranks Kawhi 5th in the league, which is the highest spot so far (LeDaddy is 1st, Paul 2nd, Curry 3rd).

If Kawhi maintains his efficiency on offense, and brings back his elite defense, he could be as good as the media are making him to be. This past regular season he was outstanding on offense but you can't let an old LeBron James be significantly better on defense than you (-3.7% to Kawhi's -0.8% difference).

His usage is terrific, but he does play under Poppovich. He actually shoots from everywhere, and is efficient from everywhere. A lot of his three-pointers are assisted (.782%), which means his offense will really be determined by the Spurs, if he doesn't change his game, that is. He is becoming a better ball handler and playmaker, so it could be a possibility.

The thing that strikes me about Kawhi is his Playoff performance.

PER= 31.5
TS%= .672
USG= 28.2%
Ortg= 136

That is freaking amazing. He still took the same shots and played the same way, just better. The guy is 26, which means this should be the beginning of his prime.

4. LeBron James


So LeBron James is still great. 1st in ESPN's real +/-, had his 10th year in a row with a 116+ Ortg, 10th year in a row with at least 25,5,5 per 36, 10th year in a row with a PER of at least 25.9, 10th year in a row with a TS% of at least .568, with 5 of those being over .600. His USG is always where it needs to be, I mean what can you say about the guy.

He still plays amazing defense ( -3.7% in 16/17, -7.3% in 15/16).

LeBron had another great Playoffs. And his finals performance was also great. .630 TS%, 126 Ortg, triple-double average...can't complain.

Over the Playoffs:

PER: 30.1
TS%: .649
Ortg: 125
USG: 31.6% (I show usages just so you can use them to compare players)

5. Kevin Durant


Well, possibly the most talented scorer ever. People react to KD playing defense this year like it's the first time he's doing it.

16/17 to 13/14: -5.5% , -6.3% , -4.3%, -6.5%

This is how much worse players shot when they faced Durant in the last 4 years.

He does rank 11th in ESPN's real +/- for the regular season though, and Curry is 2nd. Still, Durant was slightly better in the Playoffs, but even that isn't clear.

How does Durant stand out from the rest of the players from this list? By playing on a juggernauty-juggernaut team and being a better scorer. Just look at the guy's TS% and Ortg. 5 years in a row with a TS% of at least .630 (WTF), 5 years in a row with 120+ Ortg, lowered his USG when surrounded with better players, something the OG Isiah Thomas wishes he could've done, and Durant got even better in the playoffs with .683 TS%.

People don't understand how much Durant slipped in the Playoffs two years prior to this one. The stats really do show it up. Combined PER of 21.5, TS% of .556, Ortg of 109, amongst other.

Why'd he had to join Curry, ruined both his and Curry's legacy and possibly the Warriors legacy.


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Re: How good were the 2017 NBA MVP candidates?

Postby NovU on Sat Aug 12, 2017 2:24 pm

It's weird but the Spurs really have been seriously bad with Kawhi on the floor this year on defensive end. It's not that because in any way he's a bad defender but because of how the opponent plays against the Kawhi. Note Kawhi plays alongside 4 bad defenders so opponent would consistently take him out of equation and play 4 on 4 against the Spurs. The Spurs don't mind this because (a)Kawhi gets to conserve energy for offense who is also the best player on that end of the floor so it also works out for them, (b)the Spurs can afford this and still win during regular season. Come the playoffs, it's a different story, Kawhi's visible on both ends. He's magnificent.

I think it'll be tougher for Harden to contend for MVP now that CP3 is with him.

Another fun thing to note. None of the best players are big man. Guess how many of league's top players who are considered big man averaged 20+ pts this year? USG, PER, WS, all those fine numbers imo are inflated for guards, point forward, and wings in this era, so we need to take those into consideration when it comes to cross era comparison. With KG and Dirk dead, do we really have game changing high scoring PF/C now? AD probably, and perhaps future Towns. But until they become relevant, I think the discussion is moot. Big man are dead and small dictate the scoreboard.
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Re: How good were the 2017 NBA MVP candidates?

Postby Mandich on Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:38 pm

Saying big men are dead is a bit extreme as there are bigs that are many serious noise and posting serious stats in the league.

Anthony Davis is 24 and entering his 6th year in the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins is about to turn 27 and is entering his 8th year. While Cousins had his fair share of chances with Sacramento, it remains to be seen how good he can play on a full camp as the 2nd option on a better team. Davis did lead his team to the Playoffs.

Jokic is 22 and just posted a season with 126 Ortg, 26.3 PER and a TS% of .640, amongst other notable stats. And Millsap just joined him. Towns made a sophomore jump, which is promising. 2nd season under Thibodeau, Butler joins them, Towns should be going up. Joel Embiid was really good this year, and even he is only 23. Porzingis just turned 22 but hasn't improved as much in his 2nd year. Gobert is really a useful center, but is 25 and there is a possibility he already hit his ceiling given his style of play. Drummond just turned 24 and still has the potential to be an all-star.

The point is, most of the most talented big men are still young and haven't entered their prime.

As far as the veteran big man go, Marc Gasol is getting left behind because the young bigs are already better than him, and it's do or die for Blake Griffin. Horford will probably drop to the 3rd option in Boston.
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Re: How good were the 2017 NBA MVP candidates?

Postby air gordon on Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:24 am

Great post (Y)

Always nice when someone puts the stats together and then compare them to the greats
Scott Skiles answer to the question on how Eddy Curry can become a better rebounder
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